NBA Trade Ideas off Latest Buzz: Deals for Kevin Love, Trevor Ariza, Otto Porter
Trade season is almost upon the NBA.
Most free agents who signed contracts over the summer are eligible to be included in deals beginning Dec. 15. That mile marker has always acted as an unofficial start to fire sales and blockbuster searches. Teams don't swap players left and right when the clock strikes midnight, but the rumor mill gets a new life just before Christmas.
This comes as good news to those who exist for the NBA's game within the game. Jimmy Butler's relocation and the Washington Wizards' trek back from the brink of implosion has halted production at the Speculation Factory.
Oh, don't you worry. Plenty of hearsay is still floating around for the taking. It's just more manageable than chaotic and overwhelming...for now.
Trevor Ariza is the star of this latest brainstorm. Rival teams believe he'll be made available on Dec. 15, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein, since the Phoenix Suns are going nowhere this season.
Ariza is on an expiring contract that pays him $15 million and is considered a buyout candidate, which makes for murky and super-intriguing trade value. He'll get multiple hypotheticals crafted in his honor. Every other centerpiece gets one. Assume each deal will be completed on or after Dec. 15 unless otherwise instructed.
Sacramento Takes a Mini-Swing on Otto Porter Jr.
Sacramento Kings Receive: Otto Porter Jr.
Washington Wizards Receive: Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere, Iman Shumpert
Blowup talks have cooled since ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Washington was open to moving just about anyone and everyone. But the Wizards forever seem one closed-door meltdown or losing streak away from deliberate deconstruction. The vultures are still circling.
Both the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs are monitoring Bradley Beal's situation, according to Bleacher Report's Ken Berger. Certain people around the league think the New York Knicks are "stocking up their young assets and will make a major play" for John Wall, per the New York Post's Marc Berman. The Kings, meanwhile, are enamored with Otto Porter Jr., who they considered signing when he was a restricted free agent in 2017, according to The Athletic's Jason Jones.
Beal is the least likely of anyone in Washington to get dealt. Wall's four-year, $170.9 million extension and 15 percent trade kicker complicate, if not obliterate, his market value.
Porter is more movable. The two years left on his contract aren't great. He's owed $55.7 million, with a $28.5 million player option for 2020-21 that he will assuredly exercise. But plug-and-play shooters who capably defend across four positions are digestible overpays.
Sacramento can afford to swallow the pill. Porter would cannibalize a lot of the Kings' cap space this summer, but they have money to spare. They can pay his 2019-20 salary ($27.2 million) and carve out between $25 million and max money depending on what happens with restricted free agent Willie Cauley-Stein.
Cap space isn't going far in Sacramento without tendering over-the-top offers anyway. If the Kings are going to pay too much for a player, it might as well be for a 25-year-old who fills a void on the wings and comes off the books just as the Marvin Bagley-Bogdan Bogdanovic-De'Aaron Fox-Buddy Hield nucleus gets more expensive.
The Wizards apparently aren't looking to trade Porter right now, per NBC Sports' Chase Hughes. This offer might change their tune. They shave more than $10.6 million off this season's bottom line, get comfortably beneath the tax, nab cheapo flyers on Justin Jackson and Skal Labissiere, maintain depth to continue chasing a playoff berth, and create flexibility to re-sign Kelly Oubre Jr. (restricted) and Markieff Morris this summer if they aren't yet ready to rebuild.
New York Sends Frank Ntilikina to Disney World
Houston Rockets Receive: Khem Birch, Courtney Lee
New York Knicks Receive: Jarell Martin, Terrence Ross
Orlando Magic Receive: Brandon Knight, Frank Ntilikina, 2021 second-round pick (via Houston)
It seems like the Knicks have given up on Frank Ntilikina, the eighth pick in the 2017 draft. Head coach David Fizdale slashed his playing time toward the end of November, and he has yet to take the floor in December. Damyean Dotson, Emmanuel Mudiay and Allonzo Trier are all getting minutes over him, and the return of Courtney Lee doesn't bode well for his spot in the rotation moving forward.
Fizdale isn't ready indulge these between-the-lines interpretations.
"I'm just going to keep trying to pump confidence into him and all of these guys," he said after Ntilikina didn't play in the Knicks' rollicking Dec. 1 overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks, per The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov. "They know one thing about me is they're never out. They're never in the doghouse with me. They always have a chance to get themselves back into the rotation."
Opposing teams disagree. They've started calling the Knicks about Ntilikina's availability, according to Vorkunov.
Orlando is among those making inquiries, per Vorkunov, and would make for an interesting trade partner. Head coach Steve Clifford has done a nice job maximizing the talent on the roster, but the Magic need a trump card—someone to help stabilize their offense or advance their defensive identity.
Ntilikina takes care of the latter, and Orlando has the leeway in the backcourt and on the wings to test his mettle at the other end. Taking on Brandon Knight, who's owed $15.6 million next season, kind of stings but is not without upside. He gives them another on-ball playmaking option to evaluate when fully healthy. The Magic shouldn't have any qualms about sticking out his deal.
The same goes for moving Terrence Ross. He's averaging almost 16 points and shooting 45.9 percent from three over his last 15 games, but his impending free agency makes him expendable. Going on 28, he doesn't fit the timeline of a rebuild.
Nixing the Rockets' inclusion works if the Magic would rather absorb Lee than Knight and a second-rounder. Houston should hope they don't. Lee just returned from a neck injury, but he cuts down on the Rockets' luxury-tax bill this season and next while adding serviceable depth to their wing rotation. Houston shouldn't balk at including another second-rounder or sending Orlando a heavily protected first.
The Knick are selling low on Ntilikina relative to his draft position. They'll have to live with it. They haven't given him the opportunity to improve his stock.
Using him to wash off the final year of Lee's deal is good value. New York sheds $17.6 million in salary heading into free agency, and having Ross' Bird rights could prove useful depending on how the offseason shakes out. Also: Jarell Martin played well during his time in Memphis, some of which was spent under Fizdale. His arrival could mean nothing, or perhaps turn into a little cool something.
Cleveland Tears It Down While Charlotte Doubles Down (After Jan. 22)
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Kevin Love, David Nwaba
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Bismack Biyombo, Frank Kaminsky, Malik Monk, 2019 first-round pick (lottery-protected through 2021; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Kevin Love love is hoping to return from left foot surgery sometime in January, according to The Athletic's Joe Vardon. That would give him just enough time to reboot his value in advance of the February trade deadline.
Finding a new home for him isn't easy. He turned 30 in September, hasn't cleared 60 appearances since 2015-16 and will be entering the first season of a four-year, $120.4 million extension in 2019-20.
Cleveland has yet to actively shop Love, per Vardon, but that doesn't mean anything. The Cavaliers need him back on the court before they can solicit offers. Even then, no matter how well he plays, they'll be lucky to get more than salary-cap relief and low-end assets.
Charlotte fits the bill for a team that might roll the dice on Love. Owner Michael Jordan had no plans to trade Kemba Walker as of late November, according to Stadium's and The Athletic's Shams Charania. Speculation will persist, as well it should, but don't expect him to soften his stance.
In lieu of selling off Walker and starting over, the Hornets need to make a needle-nudging acquisition. Bradley Beal would be ideal. Love is more realistic. It won't take much more than sacrificing long-term flexibility to get him, and the Hornets don't have meaningful wiggle room to squander. They won't be on track for real cap space before 2021 if they re-sign Walker, and spending power won't necessarily translate to impact acquisitions.
Love is a tantalizing fit as part of a frontcourt rotation with Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams and Willy Hernangomez. He can play beside all of them—a Williams-Love duo is an attention-grabber—or none of them. Lineups with him at center have a shot at defensive survival if he's playing with both Miles Bridges and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. David Nwaba, when healthy, is a nice defensive throw-in himself.
It should take the Cavaliers roughly 0.1 seconds to green-light this package. Biyombo is demonstratively overpaid, but he comes off the books in 2020 (assuming he picks up his $17 million player option next season), when they'll also clear Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson from the ledger. Ditto for George Hill ($1 million guarantee in 2019-20) and JR Smith ($3.9 million guarantee in 2019-20) if they aren't already gone.
Malik Monk is a weird fit with Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Rodney Hood on the roster. The Cavaliers shouldn't care. He's a gettable prospect. Charlotte favors Walker-Tony Parker combos over minutes for Monk, and Cleveland doesn't have to worry about paying Clarkson or Hood, a free agent this summer, over the long haul. The Hornets could pull the protected first-rounder from negotiations, and the Cavaliers would still have to seriously weigh this offer.
Portland Shakes It Up with Trevor Ariza
Phoenix Suns: Wade Baldwin IV, Maurice Harkless and 2021 second-round pick
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Trevor Ariza
Moving Trevor Ariza is a complicated venture. Interested teams are—or at least were—hoping the Suns would buy him out, according to Stein. That remains a possibility if Phoenix isn't open to taking back long-term money.
Still, the Suns should be able to drum up some sort of market for Ariza's services. Certain teams know they won't have first dibs on him following a buyout, and capped-out squads will see value in acquiring his non-Bird rights coming off a $15 million payday.
Count the Blazers as one of those ultra-specific possibilities. Ariza isn't headed their way if he hits the open market, and they once again profile as a taxpayer next season. They aren't getting him now or signing him later without a trade.
This offer shouldn't be too rich for them. They use Maurice Harkless inconsistently when he's healthy, and that future second-rounder is an incentive for them to pay Ariza beyond this season.
Plus, after their hot start fell by the wayside, the Blazers need to do something. They've owned the league's worst defensive rating for more than a month and have dropped six of their past seven games. They're now on the verge of dropping outside of the Western Conference's playoff picture. Holding serve if this keeps up isn't an option.
The Suns should find this package similarly palatable. They might not even demand the second-rounder. Harkless is still only 25 and is not terribly overpriced at $11.5 million next season. Pairing him with Mikal Bridges makes for a worthwhile defensive duo.
Wade Baldwin most likely won't turn into a big-picture piece, but he's someone else for the Suns to roll out at point guard. And the $3.6 million they save as part of this is likely more than Ariza would give back in a buyout.
Trevor Ariza Goes Back to Hollywood
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Trevor Ariza
Phoenix Suns Receive: Svi Mykhailiuk, Rajon Rondo, 2020 second-round pick
Please don't bother spinning Rajon Rondo, who's currently working his way back from right hand surgery, as a real loss for the Lakers.
Whatever offensive relief he provides is minimal and replaceable. Putting the ball in LeBron James' hands more isn't a bad thing, and trading Rondo incentivizes Los Angeles to give Brandon Ingram extra time as the lead ball-handler with bench-heavy units. Let's not forget about Lonzo Ball, either.
Picking up Ariza does more for the Lakers. He can tackle some of the bigger defensive assignments LeBron won't and Kyle Kuzma can't, and his 35.7 percent clip from downtown invites more outside volume. Los Angeles is 23rd in spot-up accuracy from behind the rainbow—28th over its last 10 games—and 24th in treys attempted per 100 possessions.
We will now devote a moment to Lakers fans who aren't willing to give up Svi Mykhailiuk to explain themselves.
Ariza isn't picking the Lakers if he reaches the open market following a buyout unless he's hypnotized by James' drive-and-kicks. They have to give Phoenix more than a distant second-rounder and a point guard the front office will waive or buy out.
Mykhailiuk should be just enough. He's on a bargain-bin deal, isn't getting regular minutes in Los Angeles and shot 42.1 percent from long range during his final three seasons at Kansas. Phoenix could actually use him.
As an added bonus, this trade saves the Suns around $4.5 million—more than Ariza is giving back in a potential buyout.